North San Jose’s tech corridor often gets overlooked when it comes to contemporary dining options. Home to corporate giants like Oracle, Cisco and Intel, the area has remained somewhat of a food desert when it comes to exciting and original restaurants and bars.

However, the River Oaks neighborhood’s newest dining addition, Lalla Grill, has started to take root as the chic and brightly decorated next-door neighbor to some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies. Set among sprawling parking lots and office parks, Lalla provides a casual environment and serves up an array of American dishes inspired by the flavors and colors of California’s central coast, home to the restaurant’s flagship eatery. Lalla is part of the Ottone Restaurant Group, which is based on the Monterey Peninsula.

Upon walking in, patrons are greeted by a sleekly designed seating area, accented with bright furniture, quirky chandeliers and well-stocked bar. I was impressed—even a bit overwhelmed— by Lalla’s extensive menu of food and drinks. From Mexican-inspired breakfast dishes to a multitude of sandwiches, burgers, pizzas, steaks and seafood, Lalla casts a wide net to cater to any palate, while using local and organic produce and meats.

We began with one of Lalla’s famous flatbreads, noted in the menu as being “inspired by training at the International School of Pizza.” (Google confirms that’s actually a real thing.) We opted for the classic pizza margherita ($14.99) and it passed the test with flying colors. Topped with delicately flavored San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, coarsely chopped basil and a splash of olive oil, the crust was balanced and chewy and cooked throughout.

For entrees, we decided on two of Lalla’s most popular dishes, the grilled fish tacos ($14.99) and the grilled Portobello mushroom caprese sandwich ($13.99). The tacos, served up in threes, included generous portions of blackened mahi-mahi, chipotle mayo, red cabbage, habañero mango salsa and Oaxacan guacamole. Wrapped in house-made corn tortillas and topped with fresh cilantro, the fish was well-balanced and light in flavor, pairing nicely with the sweet and spicy mango salsa.

The grilled Portobello sandwich also impressed with its depth of flavor and variety of toppings, which included fresh mozzarella, avocado, roma tomatoes, arugula, grilled onions and a zesty pesto tapenade. While mushroom sandwiches can often rely on sauces and cheeses to enhance the overall flavor, the “meat” of this sandwich was tasty in its own right.

While Lalla Grill is still settling in, the service and food suggest the booming north San Jose neighborhood, increasingly connected to public transit but desperately in need of dining options, has found a good fit.

Lalla Grill
55 River Oaks Place, San Jose.